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Painting - Akbar Crosses the Ganges on an Elephant

Akbar Crosses the Ganges on an Elephant

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jagan (maker)
    Nand, Gwaliari (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.2:58-1896

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the Mughal emperor Akbar (r.1556–1605) crossing the River Ganges in north-east India on his elephant, Udiya, in pursuit of the rebels Khan Zaman and Bahadur Khan. The composition was designed by the Mughal court artist Jagan, and the details were painted by Nand Gwaliari.

The Akbarnama was commissioned by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written in Persian by his court historian and biographer, Abu’l Fazl, between 1590 and 1596, and the V&A’s partial copy of the manuscript is thought to have been illustrated between about 1592 and 1595. This is thought to be the earliest illustrated version of the text, and drew upon the expertise of some of the best royal artists of the time. Many of these are listed by Abu’l Fazl in the third volume of the text, the A’in-i Akbari, and some of these names appear in the V&A illustrations, written in red ink beneath the pictures, showing that this was a royal copy made for Akbar himself. After his death, the manuscript remained in the library of his son Jahangir, from whom it was inherited by Shah Jahan.

The V&A purchased the manuscript in 1896 from Frances Clarke, the widow of Major General John Clarke, who bought it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.

Physical description

Painting, in opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Akbar crossing the river on his elephant Udiya, in pursuit of the rebels Ali Quli Khan and Bahadur Khan.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

ca. 1586 - ca. 1589 (made)

Artist/maker

Jagan (maker)
Nand, Gwaliari (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Tarh Jagan/amal Nand Gwaliari' 'composition by Jagan/work [= painting] by Nand Gwaliari'

Dimensions

Height: 33.3 cm, Width: 19.5 cm

Object history note

The Akbarnama was commissioned by the emperor Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written by his court historian and biographer Abu'l Fazl between 1590 and 1596 and is thought to have been illustrated between c. 1592 and 1594 by at least forty-nine different artists from Akbar's studio. After Akbar's death in 1605, the manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) and later Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658). The Victoria and Albert Museum purchased it in 1896 from the widow of Major General Clarke, an official who had been the Commissioner in Oudh province between 1858 and 1862.

Historical significance: It is thought to be the first illustrated copy of the Akbarnama. It drew upon the expertise of some of the best royal painters of the time, many of whom receive special mention by Abu'l Fazl in the A'in-i-Akbari. The inscriptions in red ink on the bottom of the paintings name the artists.

Descriptive line

Painting, Akbarnama, Akbar crossing the Ganges on elephant, by Jagan and Nand Gwaliari, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Mughal, ca. 1586-1589

Associated names

Fazl, Abu'l

Production Note

Outline composed by Jagan, colours and details painted by Nand Gwaliari.

Materials

Paper; Paint; Opaque watercolour

Techniques

Drawing; Painted

Subjects depicted

Ruler; River; Elephant; Akbar

Categories

Illustration; Paintings; Animals and Wildlife

Collection code

SSEA

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Qr_O9633
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